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Department of Justice Attorney Focused on U.S. Immigration System at Society of Skeptics

Posted: April 20, 2017

At the final Society of Skeptics lecture of the year, United States Department of Justice (DOJ) attorney John Inkeles ’93 discussed the complexity and scope of the U.S. immigration system. Mr. Inkeles works in the DOJ’s Civil Division and Office of Immigration Litigation and is well-versed on the topic of immigration: His office is charged with defending the U.S. immigration system on a macro level.

A Nuanced Evaluation

“People often discuss whether the immigration system is ‘broken;’ yet, I asked Blair students whether our analysis should be more nuanced when evaluating a system that has a varied impact on the lives of tens of millions of people living in and passing through the United States each year,” he explained. Students were asked to consider this question: Should we prioritize economic, political, security and/or humanitarian needs when determining who can immigrate into the United States?

Given his position at the DOJ, Mr. Inkeles could discuss ongoing cases involving the United States or his personal views about current judicial or political battles related to the immigration system, but members of the audience were able to express their opinions in the question-and-answer period that followed his remarks.

From Litigation to the U.S. Government

After graduating from Blair in 1993, Mr. Inkeles attended Yale University, where he majored in history with a particular focus on post-World War II Eastern Europe. Before earning his BA from Yale in 1997, Mr. Inkeles took a couple of law and political science courses that fascinated him and inspired him to go to law school after college. He graduated from Cornell Law School in 2000 and did a yearlong clerkship for New Jersey Appellate Division Judge Mary Catherine Cuff. In 2001, Mr. Inkeles began working as a litigation associate for Lowenstein Sandler in Roseland, New Jersey, where he remained for three years before moving to Brown Rudnick in New York City.

A few years later, he decided to look for a litigation job with the U.S. government. “In the years following 9/11, there was a growing focus on immigration issues in the United States,” Mr. Inkeles said. “The Office of Immigration Litigation had previously been a small operation of approximately 30 attorneys, but was increasing its size to over 300 attorneys to handle the massive influx of immigration cases. I had little experience with immigration law, but they had an interest in me because of my litigation background.”

The Office of Immigration Litigation

During his first four-and-a-half years at the Office of Immigration Litigation, Mr. Inkeles worked for the Appellate Section, which handled petitions for review (in essence, appeals) of orders of removal (deportation). During that period, he handled more than 100 appeals and argued more than 20 of them in the 2nd, 3rd and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals.

In spring 2012, Mr. Inkeles joined DOJ’s District Court Section of the Office of Immigration Litigation. “We handle a diverse caseload that includes class actions challenging various aspects of the U.S. immigration system, denaturalization actions, habeas challenges (people in immigration detention challenging the legality of their detention) and passport revocation cases,” Mr. Inkeles said. “I have had cases all over the country ranging from Seattle to San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, to Miami to Boston...and a lot of places in between. To date, approximately 10 of my cases have gone to trial with the District Court Section.”

About the Society of Skeptics

Blair’s Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.

The program was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon.’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.

Last Updated: May 5, 2017